ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — They couldn’t have written the script any better.
The offense clicked, the defense clicked, and after 60 minutes of lopsided hockey Saturday, men’s hockey captain Jimmy Martin ’11 hoisted the ECAC Tournament championship trophy. A shutout from Ryan Rondeau ’11 capped a dominant Yale performance in which the Elis thrashed Cornell 6–0 to claim their second tournament title in three years.
“We were able to score six goals but I was most pleased that we were sound defensively,” head coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “Everyone committed to defense and that’s exactly what you need in the playoffs.”
That defensive commitment helped Yale clinch the No. 1 overall seed for the national tournament with a 4–0 victory over Colgate in the ECAC semifinals Friday. Now that the Elis have wrapped up their conference season, they can focus solely on the national title. Their hunt begins next Friday in Bridgeport against an opponent that will be announced on Sunday.
Yale’s defense — which is the stingiest in the nation — will continue to shine on the national stage if Rondeau maintains his hot hand. The netminder anchored Sunday’s defensive effort with his third shutout in his past three games. Though he was overlooked in the end-of-season accolades the ECAC announced Friday, he was named the most outstanding player of the championship weekend after saving all 44 shots he saw in Yale’s two wins.
Those two clean sheets lowered Rondeau’s goals against average, which already led the nation. It extended his school record for single-season shutouts, and marked the first time a Yale netminder has notched three consecutive shutouts. His 202:19 without allowing a goal is the longest stretch of its kind in program history. But Rondeau said he tried not to focus on his individual numbers, and cared only about the team’s win.
“You have to have the same routine for every game, whether you see 20 shots or 30 or 40, and whether you’re winning or losing,” he said. “The same routine, the same preparation, the same focus.”
Martin and Denny Kearney ’11 — who had three assists against Cornell and wore his championship cap into the post-game press conference — said maintaining focus was crucial to the team’s victory.
Focus will remain a critical component of Yale’s game as the red hot Bulldogs prepare to enter NCAA Tournament play next weekend. The streaking Elis look once more like the team that posted 11 consecutive wins between November and January, and led the nation in scoring offense and defense.
The Elis’ four-game playoff winning streak before the national tournament is a marked departure from last season, when their ECAC playoffs ended early with an upset at the hands of Brown.
“It’s a big difference from last year, when we sat around for two weeks and practiced and tried to get back into our game,” Broc Little ’11 said. “This year we’re going into the tournament playing our best hockey.”
Little said the Bulldogs’ ECAC title will not distract them from their ultimate goal of winning the NCAA championship. Yale will have to win four more games in a row to claim the national title, including two to earn a berth at the Frozen Four in Minnesota. Last year the Elis upset North Dakota in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but fell one game short of the Frozen Four after losing to eventual national champion Boston College.
While the NCAA Tournament looms in the future, Saturday’s massacre of Cornell — Yale’s eighth consecutive victory against the Big Red — was certainly cause for celebration. Yale led for all but three minutes thanks to a power play goal from Kevin Limbert ’12 before most fans had even settled into their seats. And the Elis had a five-goal advantage before the game was half over. But the team never let up its pressure on Cornell.
“We were able to jump out to the early lead, but we knew that this was a good team and that any big play could be the one that starts the comeback,” Kearney said.
Cornell never managed a comeback, and it was Yale that made all the big plays. Limbert struck again when he redirected a Martin slapshot past Big Red goaltender Andy Iles to give Yale a 2–0 lead heading into the second period.
Then the Elis exploded. Yale blew Cornell out of the water with four second period goals from four different skaters. Antoine Laganiere ’13 and Chris Cahill ’11 each punched shots passed Iles before Colin Dueck ’13 chased the goalie from the game with his first career goal.
Iles had allowed five goals on a mere 15 shots. Replacement Mike Garman — who had shut out Dartmouth on Friday — fared better and allowed just one of 18 Yale attempts past him. But the damage was done.
“Everything was a problem today,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer said.
The only blemish on the remainder of the Elis’ night was an injury scare when a dirty Jordan Kary hit left Ken Trentowski ’11 sprawled on the ice. Kary was ejected from the game, but Trentowski missed the rest of the second period before returning to action.
Little made the score 6–0 with a goal late in the second and the Elis were soon mobbing Rondeau and taking turns at hoisting the championship trophy. Even the stoic Allain donned a championship cap and, at the bidding of “Keith, Keith, Keith” cheers from his players, lifted the trophy himself.
The Elis take the ice next for the NCAA East Regional in Bridgeport Friday. Their opponents will be announced in a tournament selection show at 11:30 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2.